Eddie Spaghetti and Frank Meyer (from the album Motherfuckin’ Rock’n’Roll available on Kitten Robot Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
Eddie Spaghetti and Frank Meyer are offering up a 10-course meal serving Rock music. The two have certainly rocked around the block as front men/leaders of The Supersuckers (Spaghetti) and Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs (Meyer). What the pair offer with Motherfuckin’ Rock ‘n’ Roll is a trip through the whole neighborhood, a display of 70’s inspired Hard Rock and Glam, Metal, Punk, New Wave, Power Pop and Cowpunk. Eddie Spaghetti and Frank Meyer charge out of the gate riding the title track with its Motorhead inspired electric force, sonic punch, and give-a-fuck attitude. With its handclaps and bounce, “I Think It Sucks (And I Don’t Like It) is a blast of Boogie Rock while “Knock My Teeth Out” is a nod to Bon Scott-era AC/DC.
The Rock roar continues with 2021 Indie Rock via “Relationshipwreck”, a party anthem for the Glam scene in “Tattletale”, Cowpunk bred Country Rock with “You Can’t Take It Back”, and a fantastic blast of psychobilly to close the record out with “Barroom Brawl”. The duo enlisted Berton Averre from The Knack for their smoking cover of “My Sharona”, doing the same with Kix guitarist Brian Forsythe on the Power Rock Pop cover of “Heartache”. It’s a brilliant choice of covers, a well-known one hit wonder and a blast of Power Rock from a Maryland hidden gem. This record is ear-piercing brilliance. It’s a nod to the bands these dudes were reared on, while also serving as an education on various styles of Rock. Eddie Spaghetti and Frank Meyer connect the dots between Punk and Glam, Power Rock and pop, and do it with the foot down on the gas pedal. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Eddie Spaghetti and Frank Meyer from AMAZON
Please visit the Eddie Spaghetti and Frank Meyer website for more information
Various Artists (from the album Sacred Soul of South Carolina available on Bible & Tire Recording Co.)
Sourcing a tradition that reaches as far back as the 17th century, the dozen and a half songs that encompass this compelling collection of religious revelry are gleaned from an upcoming documentary that surveys Gospel music indigenous to Eastern North Carolina. Presented in a style similar to archival field recordings, the music is sacred in nature, while also incorporating elements of Blues, Funk, and R&B in a decidedly demonstrative manner.
That said, every offering provides an astute example of the power and passion that empowers these performers and effectively stirs the senses. The call and response of the Vines Sisters’ “Tell It to Jesus” rings with the same enthusiasm shared in the Dedicated Men of Zion’s robust “It’s A Shame”. Johnny Ray Daniels’ upbeat and effusive “Glory Glory” finds a fit with the drive and determination conveyed by Bishop Albert Harrison & The Gospel Tones in “Shake Me Lord”. In other words, there’s not a single entry here that fails to come across as both moving and memorable.
So too, despite the fact that some of the music benefits from contemporary arrangements and savvy studio techniques, all of it possesses the same raw urgency and undiluted emotion. The message remains the same throughout, even though the treatment may vary from song to song. Outreach and optimism are the overriding elements, and the strained voices and earnest entreaties never falter or fluctuate. For example, Big James Barrett & The Golden Jubilees underscore “Use Me Lord” with a soulful groove, but still keep the insistent strains of its repeated refrain intact. On the other hand, “Ask God in Faith” relies only on the group’s massed harmonies and a simple stomp to propel their prayers forward.
The revelry keeps a consistency that’s shared by each of these ensembles, and when taken in tandem, the exhilaration is as affecting as it is impressive.
Consequently, most listeners will find it all but impossible to resist the energy and enthusiasm these ensembles express so effectively. All share a driving delivery that fully reflects faith and frenzy in equal measure. Indeed, even atheists and agnostics might find these performances far too compelling to resist.
Ultimately then, that makes Sacred Soul of North Carolina an ideal example of how the power of prayer can result in exuberance and inspiration. Given these troublesome times, that’s reason enough to rejoice. (By Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Sacred Soul of South Carolina from Amazon
Please visit the Sacred Soul of South Carolina website for more information
Carolyn Wonderland (from the album Tempting Fate available on Alligator Records) (by Danny McCloskey)
Carolyn Wonderland uses her words to reflect her beliefs in album opener “Fragile Peace and Certain War”, the track leading the way for her recent release, and Alligator Records debut, Tempting Fate. Her political stance strides onto Tempting Fate, Carolyn Wonderland crediting the leather soles that keep her strutting with “Texas Girl and Her Boots”. While words can color in parts of Carolyn Wonderland, her mastery of the strings courses across the Dave Alvin-produced album like a Blues/Roots river. A lonely concertina echoes softly through “Crack in the Wall” bringing a hint of the border to the Texas Blues ballad, keeping the Tex-Mex combo playing in the melody of Billy Joe Shaver’s “Honey Bee”.
Carolyn Wonderland began showcasing her talents playing her bare-fingered, no picks-style in Houston, Texas at 15 years old. Moving to Austin at the urging of Doug Sahm, she quickly developed a following, releasing the first of her six previous album in 2001. She just concluded a three-stint as lead guitarist in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, giving a hint of her touring days with the band by covering Mayall’s “The Laws Must Change on Tempting Fate. A heavy beat is the foundation for Carolyn’s shout and guitar fire in “Brokenhearted Blues” while a Blue Jazz sparkle lights up “On My Feet Again” and a barrel roll piano backs the steamy Blues slathered across “Fortunate Few”. Tempting Fate closes out with two covers, featuring a duet with Jimmie Dale Gilmore on the Country Blues of Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”. Entering Jerry Garcia’s “Loser” on the rattle of dice, the song is soundtracked with thunderclouds of Outlaw Folk Rock that explode with lightning burst guitar riffs and pounding rhythms heralding the sky-seeking cries and low moans of Carolyn Wonderland as she exits the album. (by Danny McCloskey)
Listen and buy the music of Carolyn Wonderland from AMAZON
Please visit the Carolyn Wonderland website for more information
<iframe src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/5SOM73TJ4GOm9mFzmhaKUv" width="100%" height="380" frameBorder="0" allowfullscreen="" allow="autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; fullscreen; picture-in-picture"></iframe>
Reckless Kelly (from the album The 9/11 Demos available on No Big Deal Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Twenty years ago, the world experienced a collective nightmare that anyone who lived through that day will never be likely to forget. As it turned out, Austin’s Alt-Roots Rockers Reckless Kelly was in the midst of recording tracks for a new album when the news came down that the United States had been attacked.
Unable to do anything other than what they were naturally inclined to do in the first place, the group continued to soldier on. Unwilling to be deterred by this act of absolute evil, they persevered, eventually recording 16 songs, some of which would eventually be rerecorded, given new arrangements, and included on other albums. Until recently, these original recordings were buried in the vaults where they would reside untouched and undiscovered, at least until now. Once they came to light, the group opted to digitize the original tracks and release them as originally conceived, resulting in The 9/11 Demos. While several of the songs may share a familiarity factor, these seminal versions possess the power and passion that was originally intended.
To the group’s credit, the music that emerged that day still sounds fully formed. There’s a heartfelt feeling of emotion and melancholia inherent in certain songs — “Snowfall”, “Set Me Free”, “Motel Cowboy Show”, and “By the End of the Night” in particular — but other tracks — “Williamina”, “Broken Heart”, “Me & My Baby”, “I Saw It Coming”, and “You Don’t Want Me Around” among the more obvious — come across with a resolve and resilience that underscores the intent that Reckless Kelly have always made such a vital part of their MO.
So too, the ragged ballad “May Peace Find You Tonight” takes on special meaning in light of the tragic circumstances that occurred in the midst of the recording.
Notably, at the time, the band were still in the relative infancy of a nascent 25- year career, but it’s clear even at the outset that they possessed the authority and assurance needed to propel them into the upper strata of today’s Americana auteurs. Consequently, The 9/11 Demos stands among their best efforts to date based on the strength of the songs and the commitment and clarity that brought them to fruition. Kudos to the band for bringing light to a day shrouded in darkness and despair. That alone is a remarkable feat in itself. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Reckless Kelly from AMAZON
Please visit the Reckless Kelly website for more information
AmericanaFest 2021: A Look Back (by Brian Rock)
Last month saw the return of AmericanaFest following a one-year, Covid-induced hiatus in 2020. For many, AmericanaFest had a family reunion quality after being away for a year. But for me, it was special because it was my first opportunity to attend the event. For those who don’t know, AmericanaFest is a five-day conference and live music showcase hosted in Nashville. And when I say ‘live music’, I mean LOTS of live music. There were over 200 artists performing at over a dozen different venues. With my head on a swivel and my official program in hand, I tried to decide how to split my time to catch as many acts as possible. Looking over the schedule and consulting the map, I soon learned that many of the artists that I wanted to see were performing at the same time, or performing on opposite ends of town. At first, I was worried that I was going to miss out on some great music, but as I settled into the week, I realized that there were no wrong choices. Every event, and every performer was awesome! By my estimate, I was able to watch about 50 performers over the week. Although that was less than a quarter of the artists performing, it was a great representation of why I love Americana music so much.
There were long time favorites like Jim Lauderdale and Hayes Carll. There were talented newcomers like Gabe Lee and Zoe Cummins. And there was a vast array of styles and genres that makes Americana such a beautiful, interwoven musical tapestry. If you like Blues, there were Paul Thorn and Cary Morin. If you like traditional Country, there were Victoria Bailey and Mac Leaphart. If you like Southern Rock there were The Vegabonds and Strung Like a Horse. If you like the laid-back Southern California scene, there were Ted Russell Kamp and The Mastersons. If you like Soul, there were Southern Avenue and Amythyst Kiah. If you like Rockabilly, there were Jason Ringenberg and The Shootouts. If you like Outlaw Country, there were Mike and the Moonpies and TK & the Holy Know-Nothings. If you like Bluegrass, there were The Dead South and The Local Honeys. If you like Springsteen-esque Singer/Songwriters, there were David Newbould and Kevin Daniel. If you like Folk, there were Forest Sun and Aoife O’Donovan. And if you like high-energy Blues Rock, there were Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed and The 40 Acre Mule. I know many of you have never heard the names listed here. But I promise you, every one of them is worth checking out.
That same level of musical diversity was on full display at the centerpiece of the festival, the 2021 AmericanaFest Awards Ceremony. Hosted in the beautiful Ryman auditorium, the presenters and recipients demonstrated again the vast array of musical styles that fall under the Americana banner. The four Lifetime Honoree recipients for musical performers, for instance, included the Fisk Jubilee Singers (Gospel), The Mavericks (Salsa/Western Swing), Keb’ Mo (Blues), and Carla Thomas (Soul.) Highlights of the festival included performances by the aforementioned honorees, the fiery vocals of Amythyst Kiah, the effortless virtuosity of Brandi Carlile, and a show stealing vocal performance by Margo Price that stayed with you long after the show ended.
For all the diversity, there was however, one constant: a burning love for music. Americana artists don’t make music to become famous (most of them never will be.) They don’t make music to become rich. They don’t make music to tell you how to live your life. Americana artists make music because they have to. They have a song burning inside them that is desperate to be released. They make the kind of music you hear with your heart as much as with your ears. Just how much they love music was especially apparent at this festival. After a year of not being able to perform in front of an audience, the joy of the musicians was palpable. Nearly every performer took a moment to thank the audience. Many of them vowed never to take performing music for granted again. Some referred to their return to stage as a gift. And that’s exactly what it was. AmericanaFest was, is, and continues to be a gift from music lovers to music lovers. (by Brian Rock)
The Americana Music Association will have the 2021 schedule of performances posted for a short while as preparations begin for AmericanaFest 2022.
Check out the full lineup for AmericanaFest 2021 here.
Side Pony (from the album Side Pony available on Mule Kick Productions (by Bryant Liggett)
The ladies in Side Pony are the perfect combination of sassy and serious. Caitlin Cannon has always delivered tunes a bit bawdy and a bit rowdy, a tongue in cheek delivery of satire and sarcasm. Alice Wallace dips into the more serious, a straight ahead Folkie with a killer set of pipes and tunes both dreamy and drifting. Their musical and attitudinal differences are an ace, one straight, one irreverent; that balance is on full and wonderful display on their debut, Lucky Break, with the ladies dropping an album both subtly serious as it charges full speed with charm.
Side Pony open with that charge. A locomotive drum rhythm drives “Bad Ideas” with Caitlin, always bold in self-deprecation, admitting ‘it takes me more than twice to learn a lesson’, the ladies backing up word with examples. There’s Country-fried Soul in “Heels”, a cut about strong willed women with a fuzzy guitar solo while Side Pony become dreamy and sad for the ballad “All I Have Is Want”.
Side Pony stray from the Roots scene on the subtly psychedelic “Under The Surface”, where their vocals throw out an Andrews Sisters vibe and they boast Indie Pop Rock sensibilities. The album closer in “All the Time in the World” is piano bouncy Boogie Woogie. It’s those voices. Alice Wallace and Caitlin Cannon trade verses, they then come together in harmony, independently stars on their own, both worthy of the spotlight when singing together as Side Pony. Mixed it all with a more-than-capable backing band and you’ve got a sweet package. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Side Pony from AMAZON
Please visit the Side Pony website for more information
Heartless Bastards (from the album A Beautiful Life available on Sweet Unknown Records) (by Bryant Liggett)
The Heartless Bastards are aging with grace. Not saying they’re old, but 16 years in since they dropped their debut. In Rock’n’Roll years that’s a healthy lifetime. Forget time and think longevity and brand. Their latest in A Beautiful Life is loaded with dreamy melodies that mix with Erika Wennerstroms always powerhouse vocals. “Revolution” kicks it off, a tune with a protest vibe. Wennerstrom suggests we ‘leave judgement at the door for others and yourself’ as she also calls out what could be big brother while ultimately just wanting to ‘take away the Blues’; it’s a cut loaded with punching statements as they melody moves from dreamy ballad to pumping singalong.
There’s a bit of AM gold in “When I Was Younger”, “Dust” digs into the ambient, and “Photograph”, with its 70’s guitar lead in, could be a star of Classic Rock radio. It ultimately digs into a wonderful, dreamy interlude. “Doesn’t Matter Now” has a subtle Pop vibe in a carefree package, its beauty being in its laid-back delivery. Sixteen years back this was a guitar heavy band. Heartless Bastards are still heavy while also stocked with thick, dreamy songs, delivered like a film score for A Beautiful Life. In the end, it is always Wennerstroms’ vocals that steal the show; commanding and big but also soft, they remain the star instrument. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Heartless Bastards from AMAZON
Please visit the Heartless Bastards website for more information
José Leguina & Gamlebyen (from the album A Few Miles More available on Gamlebyen Recordings) (by Chris Wheatley)
A very interesting record from Norway here, José Leguina & Gamlebyen describe themselves as ‘an organic, sophisticated rattle orchestra’ who play ‘messy Americana and Rock meets Tango, Polka, and crooked Waltzes in the spirit of the good Tom Waits - a goulash with a little Dan Auerbach, a little Nick Cave, a little Gil-Scott Heron, and some Bulgarian brass on the top’. Fans of spirited, inventive and somewhat quirky music may just have found a new favourite in this likeable outfit, which consists of Jose Leguina himself on guitar, Knut Lothe on drums, Ole Jacob Evensen on bass guitar, Endre Tonnesen on double-bass, Lars A Haug on ‘all kinds of brass’ and Jon Thorstensen on keyboards and guitar (Thorstensen's own new single, “Kiwi Girl”, is also well worth checking out.)
A Few Miles More opens with “Booze and Jealousy”, a riotous, up-tempo, Gyspy Rock affair which does indeed rattle and roll with beautiful brass adornments and galloping guitar. The band is more than good enough to put down the sort of thrillingly loose and shambling style which can only be achieved by fine players with a spirit of togetherness. There are certainly echoes of Nick Cave's invention and ambition, eclectic style, and nuanced vision but this is band too good to merely imitate. “Throw Him Off That Cliff” is a wry delight, bouncing along on brass, shuffling percussion, and spiky, idiosyncratic vocals. There's a lot going on here but it's all perfectly placed, with disparate sounds providing plenty of depth. This is a record which you can listen to over and over, picking up new details on each run.
There's lyrical strength here, too – the songs are as clever as they are playful, with an enigmatic feel. ‘Is he a friend, has he got my back, or is he just, planning his attack? Who's the one who threw him off that cliff’? Whether tumbling forward at full pace, taking unexpected left-field turns or putting on the brakes, the band have plenty to offer. The dark-tinged “Uncle Frank” drifts on black clouds, but even here the sparkling guitar, off-kilter delivery, and fantastical lyrics inject a palpable sense of fun. This is twisted, fun-house mirror music which never leaves you feeling cold.
“Major Wife” is a particular standout – a bombastic, 70s prog-rock extravaganza which nevertheless manages to sound up-close and personal. A grand design in your back garden, the song lurches and rocks, throwing furtive glances over its shoulder as the players power full steam ahead. This sort of imaginative, adventurous playing is wonderful to hear. “Home With Me” continues the helter-skelter circus vibe, slipping and sliding like a sideshow from Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Again, though, this music is so enjoyable that it will uplift rather than unsettle.
Listen and buy the music of José Leguina & Gamlebyen from AMAZON
Please visit the José Leguina & Gamlebyen website for more information
The Way Down Wanderers (from the album More Like Tomorrow as a self-release) (by Bryant Liggett)
The Way Down Wanderers are a subtle musical grab-bag. They remain genre defined non-committal in the best possible way, flirting with the acoustic Roots and Americana without asking for more than a dance, sometimes hinting at Bluegrass, other times Folk or Jazz. On The Way Down Wanderers latest,More Like Tomorrow, they display those sounds to perk the ears before pulling away. More Like Tomorrow is a dabble of Roots music in a harmony heavy and happy minded package of Pop. When The Way Down Wanderers wander through other genres, they come in short bursts. Album opener, “Codeine Rest & Loneliness”, is swaying and dramatic, a banjo drifting under the vocals leading into a Bluegrass break. “Hiding” does the same, just replace banjo with keyboards and string band riffs with funky interludes, the exchange seamless.
“Love is My Gospel” has a simple but serious message in ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ within a tune that’s got a new-age Gospel feel, the banjo returning for the bouncy “Two Parts One Heart”, a tune for anyone that’s ever had a kid and realized it’s more glorious than tedious. The story its loaded with quick little phrases that sum up parenting at every level. This is efficient and quick with everything clocking in under four minutes. With no time wasted, More Like Tomorrow is an album loaded with lyrical quips and little musical curveballs at every corner. The Way Down Wanderers present Avant-garde Folk Pop at its best. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of The Way Down Wanderers from AMAZON
Please visit The Way Down Wanderers website for more information
Colin Linden (from the album bLOW available on Highway 20 Records) (By Lee Zimmerman)
Canada’s Colin Linden is well known as an award-winning singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer whose association with any number of outfits North of the border — Blackie and the Rodeo Kings in particular — has brought him a significant amount of notoriety over the course of a nearly 45-year career. He’s had other milestones as well, including the fact that he’s not only shared stages with this likes of another Great Northern icon Bruce Cockburn, but also such notables as Bob Dylan, Gregg Allman, and John Prine. In addition, Colin Linden contributed to over 500 albums (of which, he produced well over 25 percent), netted a Grammy (for his work on Keb Mo’s acclaimed effort Oklahoma), snagged 25 Juno Award nominations, and managed to take home no less than nine.
It’s a pretty impressive list of accomplishments but it doesn’t necessarily account for a solo career of a more humble nature — that is, one that finds him tapping into basic Blues. bLOW the latest from Colin Linden, offers another astute example, courtesy of a set of songs that varies the tempo but not necessarily the motif. “4 Cars” finds him sharing some sizzling slide guitar, “Boogie Let Me Be” is, well, all about a boogie while other songs — “Right Show Wrong Foot”, “When I Get to Galillee”, and “Blow” simply slow the pace to accommodate a series of slow shuffles. “Houston” adds a bit of an edge, but overall, doesn’t change the template.
That’s all fine of course. Linden is clearly content to remain focused on a format that he’s been drawn to ever since he was a child. As always, those that appreciate his ongoing diligence and dedication to form will find much to admire here, particularly as far as the fiery guitar work is concerned. Consequently, be forewarned; the title says it all. With bLOW, Colin Linden gets down and dirty. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Colin Linden from AMAZON
Please visit the Colin Linden website for more information